Darius Leonard has a request. He would like for you call call him Shaquille.
The Indianapolis Colts All-Pro linebacker made the revelation as training camp got underway on Tuesday. In fact, he hates being called Darius.
"I hate being called Darius," Leonard told reporters. "I understand it’s going to be hard, but I would love it if y’all would try to call me Shaquille or D or Maniac, and not Darius.”
So why the switch? It turns out it's not a switch for Leonard except in broader NFL circles. Shaquille is his middle name. Darius is his first. But he's gone by Shaquille for all of his life.
“I went by Shaquille my whole life,” Leonard said. “My mom called me Shaquille, my friends and family called me Shaquille. I never went by Darius, only in school or if I was in trouble. Once I got to the NFL, that’s when people started calling me Darius.”
Leonard's entering his fifth NFL season. He's one of football's most talented and accomplished defenders, with four All-Pro nods in four seasons in addition to a Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy from 2018. He's regularly among the league leaders in both tackles and turnovers forced. So why have we been calling him by a name he hates?
“Coming in as a rookie, I figured just go with it,” Leonard said. “Didn’t want a rookie to come in and start saying he should be called something else, so I just went with it. I love being called Shaquille."
He also cites advice that he got as a rookie from Randy Moss.
“Coming into my rookie camp, talking to Randy Moss, he said the best advice he could give me was to keep your mouth closed, and your ears and eyes open,” Leonard continued. “I just wanted to work. I didn’t want to come in and feel like I wanted to be treated special. If they called me Darius Leonard, I mean, that is my name. I didn’t want to cause any problems. So that’s the reason why.”
It turns out that his name's not an issue in Colts circles. General manager Chris Ballard told the Indianapolis Star that "people around the building call him Shaq." Now Leonard would like for the rest of the world to extend him the courtesy of calling him is preferred name. Also, he understands that it might be an adjustment.
I went by Shaquille my whole life and I understand that it’ll be a hard change to be called Shaquille after being called Darius for 4 years. It’s not a huge deal and it wouldn’t be no hard feelings if you called me Darius. Shaquille is my middle name that I’ve went by since 95.
— Darius Shaquille Leonard (@dsleon45) July 26, 2022
Shaquille, it is.